author: Deanna Raybourn
published: 6 September 2022
publisher: Berkley Books
source: Book of the Month
buy/shelve it: Amazon | B&N | BookBub | BookHype | Goodreads
Older women often feel invisible, but sometimes that's their secret weapon.
They've spent their lives as the deadliest assassins in a clandestine international organization, but now that they're sixty years old, four women friends can't just retire - it's kill or be killed in this action-packed thriller.
Billie, Mary Alice, Helen, and Natalie have worked for the Museum, an elite network of assassins, for forty years. Now their talents are considered old-school and no one appreciates what they have to offer in an age that relies more on technology than people skills.
When the foursome is sent on an all-expenses paid vacation to mark their retirement, they are targeted by one of their own. Only the Board, the top-level members of the Museum, can order the termination of field agents, and the women realize they've been marked for death.
Now to get out alive they have to turn against their own organization, relying on experience and each other to get the job done, knowing that working together is the secret to their survival. They're about to teach the Board what it really means to be a woman--and a killer--of a certain age.
content warning: murder, violence
a few notes
cover notes: unique, eye-catching
keywords/phrases: assassins, older ladies, RED
mood reading: in the mood for the comedy side of a thriller
bonus points: older MCs, friendship
This was such an engrossing read! I love the premise of it, that they were an elite team of female assassins. I also loved the underlying code they lived by… no freelance assassinations, only those sanctioned by their organization. That provided an oversight and a level of morality that wouldn’t have existed in freelance work.
Much of the story is told from Billie’s perspective in the present, with flashbacks to the four friends’ recruitment, training, and missions over the years. The author has created dynamic, engaging characters. Each woman comes to the story with her own history, her own experiences, even with so much of their lives wrapped up in one another. Somehow, despite their shared career path, they seem real, like women the reader could know.
The storytelling is brilliant, with fabulous characters, international travel, twists and turns, and tons of action. And all of it is woven together with wit and depth, and a surprising amount of humor. There are so many unpredicatable moments, some leading to unexpected twists and others letting the reader learn more about who the characters are as individuals. There’s an undeniable James Bond/007-meets-RED feeling to the book, which I loved. For those not in the know, RED means “retired: extremely dangerous,” also the title to the film RED with Bruce Willis, Helen Mirren, Morgan Freeman, and John Malkovich, all of who are former black ops agents who’ve been targeted for death.
One of the best things about this story was the focus on the women “of a certain age.” It flies in the face of the all-too-often invisibility of older women, and the perception of them. That is something there isn’t enough of in literature, so it really stood out.
She pulled a face. Bombs were messy; explosives left bits and pieces of people lying around like so much litter after a Mardi Gras parade. Helen liked things tidy. She took great pride in the fact that she’d once drilled a mark in a stiff wind at eight hundred yards, so clealy that she put the round directly through the socket of his eye, not even skimming the bone. She’d been given a commendation for that one.
Only women are ever called persnickety,” Mary Alice said. “Men get to be ‘detail oriented.
She might be less than what she had once been, but she was still worth a hell of a lot.
I am interested in justice, not the law. There is an unfortunate difference.
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